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Uttering a Threat

The Charge

Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code sets out that everyone who knowingly utters a threat to another person to cause death or bodily harm, or to damage or destroy property, is guilty of an offence. The essence of the offence is that the prosecutor must prove that the accused intended their remarks to genuinely cause the complainant to intimidate or to be taken seriously. There is no requirement that the intended victim be aware of the threat; the offence is made out upon proof that the accused intended the words to cause fear or alarm. In determining whether or not the accused’s statements are a threat, the words must be viewed objectively in the context in which they were spoken. The words must have been uttered with an intent to intimidate or to be taken seriously.

Uttering a threat is a hybrid offence meaning that the Crown has the option of proceeding by indictment and to seek a sentence of up to five years in jail. Alternatively, the Crown can proceed summarily, in which case the maximum sentence is 24 months in jail. There are no mandatory minimum sentence requirements for uttering threats. Non-custodial sentences are available.

The Investigation

Unlike many other criminal investigations, in threatening charges, the substantive evidence usually comes not from the police, but from the complainant who says you threatened them. Upon receiving the complaint, police will seek out the suspect and attempt to obtain their side of the story.

When contacted by a suspect prior to their arrest, we can be of significant assistance. We will make enquiries to determine who the investigating officer is. Because of the laws concerning solicitor/client privilege, we can act as a “buffer” between our client and police. We can speak on our client’s behalf without risk of creating incriminating evidence against them. We will negotiate to have our client not charged, or if charged, to be released from custody quickly and on the least restrictive terms that are appropriate. Typical release conditions include no contact with the complainant, including face-to-face contact, or indirect contact by phone, text, email or through a third party. Other conditions may include no weapons, no alcohol or other similar protective conditions.

Recent Successes

R. vs. M.P. – ICBC insurance fraud investigation.

Charge: Insurance fraud.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through the investigation by helping our client rectify the fraudulent information that he had provided to I.C.B.C. No charges approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.B. – Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Given our client's severe mental health issues, whether he was criminally responsible for the offences.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information about our client's mental health history to Crown counsel and, ultimately, was able to persuade Crown to end the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.H. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.,br> Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.C. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. W.F. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether this road rage incident was a criminal offence or a consensual fight.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to present Crown counsel with video evidence which confirmed that the complainant had engaged in a consensual altercation. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.Y. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether the 18 month jail sentence Crown had sought was reasonable in all the circumstances.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the Crown and Court and ultimately persuaded the trial judge to sentence our client to a 7 month conditional sentence , followed ny 18 months probation. No jail.

R. vs. G.W. – North Vancouver RCMP Investigation

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able collect information from a defence witness and represent to police that our client should not  be prosecuted. Police concluded their investigation without recommending any criminal charge against our client. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.S. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we directed our client to complete, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve any charge prior to the scheduled first court appearance. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.L. – Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Possession of a loaded prohibited firearm; Unlawful storage of firearms.
Issue: Whether the warrant used to search our client's premises was lawful; whether our client posed a risk to re-offend.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to point to potential flaws in the warrant and police search which culminated in Crown's agreement to not pursue their original sentencing position of a 2-3 year jail sentence. Rather, the court accepted a joint submission of a 12 month conditional sentence with a curfew for the first six months. No jail.

R. vs. M.K.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon (x2).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the court to grant our client a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to direct our client through a course of rehabilitative counselling, and after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the trial judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. K.D. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps that we were able to guide our client through, whether there was a public interest in continuing with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to amend the bail condition to allow "permissive contact" with the complainant, and after providing Crown with a report from our client's psychologist Crown counsel ended the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.L. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual assault; Unlawful Confinement; Assault by Choking.
Issue: Given the impact of the additional evidence that Mr. Johnson provided to Crown counsel, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Crown counsel agreed that the new evidence significantly undermined the strength of the case.  Crown counsel entered a stay of proceedings, bringing the prosecution to an end. No jail. No criminal record.

The Defence

The typical defences to threatening charges is to establish doubt that the words were ever uttered or, alternatively, that the words uttered were not intended to be taken seriously by the complainant. Clearly, any evidence from third party witnesses or video or audio recordings will be relevant.

As experienced lawyers, we are able to offer significant assistance to clients who contact us before they are contacted by police. We will contact the police investigator and will strive to persuade police to not take you into custody at all or, alternatively, to release you on the least onerous conditions as possible, as quickly as possible. In our more than 25 years of experience, we have been successful in obtaining non-custodial sentences for the majority of our clients charged with uttering threats. We will strive to resolve your threatening charge with alternative measures, a peace bond or a discharge.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.